FUTURE OF TASSIE PULP MILL HITS NEW HURDLE
Future of mill hits new hurdle
Chief reporter, The Mercury
September 27, 2007 12:00am
FEDERAL Cabinet refused to make a decision on the future of the $1.9 billion Tasmanian pulp mill this week after being told government chief scientist Jim Peacock concluded the proposal was flawed.
Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull flew to the US yesterday as it was reported Dr Peacock had briefed Cabinet on the findings for building the world's largest pulp mill in the Tamar Valley north of Launceston.
It is understood Dr Peacock's four-week inquiry has recommended the Federal Government not approve the mill in its current form, unless proponent Gunns agrees to incorporate more stringent effluent controls.
Dr Peacock is also believed to want Gunns to provide further information relating to the 73 million litres or 64,000 tonnes of effluent that will be pumped daily into Bass Strait and its potential dispersion and ocean movements.
The effluent contains toxic chemicals, dioxins and furans, which the federal Environment Department has concluded will have a "significant impact" on the marine life and marine sediments of Bass Strait and on the Tasmanian north-east coastline.
However, Mr Turnbull's department had earlier advised the Minister that he approve the mill under national environmental laws, with some added safeguards.
The department concluded the most severe detrimental impacts of the mill outfall would be on coastal marine waters and beaches outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, for which the State Government is responsible.
The independent report from Dr Peacock checking the department's approval recommendation was commissioned by Mr Turnbull after a massive national campaign against the pulp mill.
Dr Peacock's findings, which include even tougher effluent controls than those suggested by the Environment Department, went to Cabinet on Tuesday.
The Federal Government is now expected to announce its ultimate decision on the mill's future next week, after Mr Turnbull's return from America and before the federal election is called.
Gunns executive chairman John Gay would not comment yesterday if he had been told of Dr Peacock's recommendations, or if the company was prepared to change the design or wastetreatment systems.
Mr Turnbull's office refused to confirm the speculation.
Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said Prime Minister John Howard was pushing Cabinet to approve the pulp mill because he was a good friend of Mr Gay.
"John Howard is very cosy with Gunns supremo John Gay -- but his problem is that the chief scientist hasn't given the go-ahead; (instead) he's expressed very strong concerns about the outfall," Dr Brown said yesterday.